CINCINNATI -- Through the first two games of the opening weekend in Cincinnati, Bryce Harper had been relatively quiet. He had walked and collected a pair of RBIs with sacrifice flies, but it seemed as if it were only a matter of time until he broke out.It happened during Sunday's
CINCINNATI -- Through the first two games of the opening weekend in Cincinnati, Bryce Harper had been relatively quiet. He had walked and collected a pair of RBIs with sacrifice flies, but it seemed as if it were only a matter of time until he broke out.
It happened during Sunday's 6-5 victory over the Reds, as Harper left his impact all over the game.
First, he made a nice sliding catch to rob speedy Billy Hamilton of a hit in the third inning. Then he deposited a 3-1 pitch from Reds right-hander Sal Romano into the right-field stands in the sixth inning for a solo home run. Three innings later, he smacked another solo homer to dead center against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias
"I mean, it's Bryce Harper," manager Dave Martinez said. "He had good at-bats. I told him his sacrifice flies were key for him. Just staying on the ball, not striking out, putting the ball in play at times. I said, 'You can drive in runs without getting a hit.' But today, you saw Bryce Harper being Bryce Harper."
These were Harper's first two home runs of the season, and the second consecutive year in which he hit two home runs on Easter Sunday. His second home run proved to be vital for Washington, as it provided the difference in what turned out to be a one-run game.
"Just trying to get some pitches over the plate," Harper said. "Not chase and try to do some things in the box that lets me do damage. If I can get a pitch over the plate, I'll do damage."
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Harper also showed off his ability with the glove in right field. One of the goals he sets for himself before the start of each season is to win a Gold Glove Award, something he discussed with Martinez during Spring Training, who was on board -- as long as Harper avoids running into walls.
Harper's snag of Hamilton's low line drive had a hit probability of 91 percent, as rated by Statcast™.
Harper was playing a bit more shallow than normal with Hamilton at the plate, starting at 272 feet from the plate compared to his average starting distance last season of 292 feet. Then he covered 38 feet in 3.1 seconds to make a sliding catch on a play that held about a 35-percent catch probability.
It was a gamble that paid off for Harper. Considering Hamilton's speed if that ball had rolled past him, Hamilton would have had a chance for an inside-the-park home run.
Statcast™ rated the play as a 4-star catch. Harper made just three 4-star catches all of last season, along with one 5-star catch.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.